Shilabalika, a.k.a. ‘salabhanjika’, is a standard decorative element of Indian sculpture depicting in stone a young female under a stylized tree in various poses, such as dancing, grooming herself or playing a musical instrument.

The below picture depicts three such Shilabalika structures on the outer wall of Chennakeshava temple, Belur.
shilabalikas on chennakeshava temple wall

The salabhanjika concept stems from ancient symbolism linking a chaste maiden with the sala tree or the asoka tree through the ritual called dohada, or the fertilisation of plants through contact with a young woman. The symbolism changed over the course of time and the salabhanjika became figures used as ornamental carvings, usually located in the area where worshipers engage in circumambulation, near the garbhagriha of many Hindu temples.
The salabhanjika’s female features, like breasts and hips, are often exaggerated. Frequently these sculpted figures display complex hairdos and an abundance of jewelry.

The Shilabalikas shown in the picture below are located inside the temple. These sculptures adorn the edges of a square elevated ceiling before the sanctum area.

shilabalika dancing

shilabalika in nataraj pose

shilabalika grooming hair


Anoop Hullenahalli

An Electronics Engineer working on wireless embedded systems for a living. Traveling, photographing and sharing my experiences here at ANUBIMB helps me unwind and break the monotony of life.

10 Comments

Sarah · 28 Jul ’11 at 3:09 am

we just visited this temple last week in Belur… 

    Anoop · 4 Aug ’11 at 5:53 am

    that’s great!.. did you like what you saw?

    Anonymous · 20 Oct ’14 at 7:01 am

    Its beautiful

    Anoop · 4 Aug ’11 at 6:08 am

    thanks. you have some excellent captures from the bangalore fashion week 2011.

Sunil Deepak · 3 Aug ’11 at 7:22 am

Beautiful images made better by clear explanations and a bit of cultural history 🙂

    Anoop · 4 Aug ’11 at 6:09 am

    thanks for your appreciation.

Shrinidhi Hande · 4 Aug ’11 at 1:29 am

We should appreciate the craftsmanship of artists those days… Six sigma,zero defect delivery

    Anoop · 4 Aug ’11 at 6:10 am

    I do appreciate the craftsmanship of the artists, but we never know how many such sculptures didn’t make the cut, do we?! so six sigma not sure! 😛

vishnu kumar · 18 Dec ’11 at 10:20 am

that’s an insight….thanks for researching on this facet of the temple…

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